The decline of snowpatches in the Snowy Mountains of Australia: importance of climate warming, variable snow, and wind
As with glaciers, long-lasting snowpatches have measurable features that are likely to be affected by a warming climate. Changes in these snowpatches are important as they often affect the down-slope thermal regime, water supply, nutrients, soil development, and vegetation. Australia's longest-lasting snowpatches, occurring in the Snowy mountains, are formed during northwesterly winds, being deposited on southeasterly slopes where they are protected from insolation. Longevity of snowpatches is determined by winter snow and summer temperatures, with 155 days variation in the ate of thaw among years. Snowpatches generally occurred in the same locations annually, but differences in direction of the winds during deposition affected snowpatch formation, accumulating aspect, and spatial melt patterns among years. Date of thaw of snowpatches was related to the general snowpack that as declined significantly ver the past 54 years Snowpatches previously mulit-year in duration, melted in 2006 in the same year that they formed. Australian snowpatches have already declined with the resultant loss of specialized vegetation. Trends in reducing amount of snow and earlier thaw cast doubt on the long-term future of these snowpatches and their specialized plant communities.
Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research
Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified